Chapter 7: Theology and Politics: A South African Perspective, by Simon S Maimela – Religion Online
For hundreds of years, Christian theology served as the cornerstone of social, cultural, How are we to explain the relationship between religion and politics?. explicitly lent the imprimatur of his theory of political theology to Hitler's Nazi .. of political theology inasmuch as it proposes a very different relationship to. Many talks have already been made regarding the relationship between religion and politics. In our country and in Muslim and Western countries, diverse ideas.
They were at the mercy of diseases and catastrophes over which they had no control. Their faith in God was shaken by natural disasters. As recently as two centuries ago the earthquake in Lisbon which killed thousands of people, raised the question of the existence of a God of love, because things beyond human control, things in and outside nature threatened human existence. The events of the Twentieth Century have made this kind of question even more pertinent. Not only have natural disasters such as earthquakes occurred; atrocities of apocalyptic dimensions have been committed by the so-called civilized nations.
There were Hiroshima and Nagasaki where nuclear bombs killed thousands of people in a flash: These were not natural disasters, they were political disasters. These were carefully planned and executed events in which politicians and governments took decisions. Has the Gospel nothing to say about things like these? Has the Church no message of judgement upon the racial hatred of the Germans and their murder of the Jews?
All these things occurred as a result of political decisions, dirty political decisions. Was it not, however, precisely for sinners and for the enemies of God that Jesus came? In truth, the Gospel has everything to do with politics.
4 reasons Christians should care about politics
In our century we have even come to see such matters as disease in a new light. Disease is not simply the fate of an individual assigned to him or her from above. One can become ill by working under bad conditions, by living in a badly built house, by being underfed. One can die of an illness because efficient medical services are not available.
Has the Gospel nothing to do with this kind of thing? If not, then it was a mistake to do medical missionary work. Stated briefly, we no longer live under conditions of cosmic powerlessness and slavery that characterized the lives of people from the first centuries of the Christian era until quite recently.
Because the Gospel is concerned with our lives, with love to God and neighbor, the Church has an indispensable message for our political life. Three important points need to be noted. First, it is a delusion to believe that some churches are not involved in politics. All churches and religious groups have a political influence. Even those churches that do not criticize politicians and the government are involved in politics. Simply by saying nothing, they accept what is happening and sanction it by silence.
Secondly, let us note that politics can indeed be dirty but that it does not need to be dirty. Reformed theology has always called for the sovereignty of Jesus over all society.
God created the earth and mankind and has made us responsible for one another. A government that does not heed the message of the gospel cannot do the will of God. Therefore, the church which is not continually expressing the will of God to the government is not fulfilling its calling. For, in the first place, no politician or government can by herself, himself or itself know the will of God for all the difficult situations in a society. They are dependent upon the word of God and on the Church as the proclaimer of that word.
If, in such a situation, the Church does not let its voice be heard clearly and persistently, then it is abandoning the government to its fate and denying the Lord Jesus Christ. The third important point is: The scope of political theology is much wider. It does not concentrate only on abuses. Political theology is based on the insight that human beings are increasingly creating their own history and destiny.
We are responsible for the shape which our lives will take today and tomorrow.
The things that determine our lives are our own creation. Cars, trains, the radio, machines they may never be switched off, these things which so determine our lives are our own creation. This situation is usually defined as the political situation in which we live. We must accept responsibility for the world as it is today and as it will be tomorrow. This all-embracing, human-made society is created by political decisions, and so in a sense the whole of life may be called the political situation.
It is here that men and women express themselves. This is where things can be changed. Political theology, then, means the one that interprets the Bible with an eye to this political situation. Who should have a say in the decisions which determine our lives today and tomorrow? Who has the right to share in the prosperity that is now possible? Is there any limit to the things we may make and alter heart transplants, artificial insemination, "test-tube babies," nuclear weapons -- more than enough to destroy all forms of life on earth!
Can we regard it as acceptable that two or three people can determine the destiny of all humankind -- those people being for instance the leaders of the United States of America, the Republic of Russia and China? It speaks to all areas of life, including political engagement. In fact, the Bible speaks about civil government and provides examples of faithful engagement. In the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel served in civil government, exerting influence to further the flourishing of their nations.
In the New Testament, Jesus engaged in holistic ministry, caring for the spiritual and physical needs of people.
Chapter 2: The Relationship between Religion and Politics
Feeding the hungry and healing diseases were an outworking and extension of the reconciliatory message of the gospel. Paul also advocates this approach: The decisions made by government have a substantial impact on people and the way we interact with them. But ask a pastor in an underground church or a missionary attempting to access a closed country if politics are inconsequential.
Religious liberty, passports and visas are not unnecessary luxuries but are often vital for pastors and missionaries seeking to preach and teach the gospel. There are biblical examples of how membership in the earthly city can be leveraged for furthering the reach of the heavenly.
In an American context, engaging these dual cities takes on added significance because of the words prefacing the Constitution: Because politics have real-world implications for Christian evangelism, missions and preaching the gospel, Christians ought to engage the political process by leveraging their rightful authority, advocating for laws and policies that contribute to human flourishing. We need to love our neighbor. When questioned by religious authorities on the law, Jesus explained that loving God with heart, soul and mind was the greatest commandment Matthew He added that second in priority was: Followers of Christ are called to love and serve their neighbors Matthew In a very real sense, politics is one of the most important areas in which Christians demonstrate love to neighbor.
In fact, how can Christians claim to care about others and not engage the arena that most profoundly shapes basic rights and freedoms? This has yielded a diversity of political theology disproportionate to the small size of Middle East Christian minorities.
Theology and Politics, Then and Now - Westar Institute
The region's importance to Christians worldwide — both for history and doctrinal authority for many denominations — also shapes the political theologies of the Middle East. Many Arab Christians see themselves as the heirs of a rich Christian heritage whose existence is threatened by regional unrest and religious persecution. Their chief political goal is survival, which sets their political theology apart. In other cases, Christian politicians downplay their faith in the public sphere to avoid conflict with their Muslim neighbours.
One prominent example was Michel Aflaqan Eastern Orthodox Christian who formed the first Ba'ath group from students in Damascus in the s. His belief was that Christians should embrace Islam as part of their cultural identity because nationalism was the best way for Christians to be successful in the Middle East. Political theology in sub-Saharan Africa Political theology in sub-Saharan Africa deals with the relationship of theology and politics, arising from the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and nationalist campaigns of the mid to late twentieth century elsewhere.
The increasing numbers of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa has led to an increased interest in Christian responses to the region's continuing issues of poverty, violence, and war.